One of the universities at the centre of a brawl between two rival hockey teams says the fight was instigated by “a derogatory comment related to a sexual assault survivor” aimed at one player.
The fight happened during a game between the St. Francis Xavier University X-Men and Acadia University Axemen in Wolfville, N.S., on Saturday.
A recap on the website for Acadia University’s athletic department says five players for the Axemen, eight members of the X-Men and both head coaches were ejected from the game.
In a statement issued late on Monday by St. Francis Xavier University, the school alleges the brawl began after one of their student-athletes, Sam Studnicka, was targeted.
The statement does not say what Studnicka’s connection to the sexual assault survivor is.
Studnicka says in the same statement that during his three-year Atlantic University Sport (AUS) career, he has been repeatedly targeted with insulting and derogatory comments relating to the sexual assault survivor.
“It has been frustrating that one AUS hockey program, in particular, has elicited repeated on-ice comments directed towards me,” Studnicka said.
“Another comment was made during the third period of Saturday night’s game, which was addressed by my head coach to the on-ice officials and to the opposing team’s head coach.”
Studnicka alleges that when he was next on the ice the player who had made the comment was sent to take the face-off against him.
That’s when the brawl began.
“There is no place for such comments within our society. Sexual assault is a very serious issue and there is simply no place for shaming sexual assault survivors, ever,” Studnicka said.
Kevin Dickie, the executive director of varsity athletics at Acadia University, said in a statement that the school launched an investigation on Sunday “regarding the validity of insinuations being made about this incident.”
“The information we have gathered is not consistent with the allegations contained in the statements made this evening publicly by StFX,” Dickie wrote.
He adds that Acadia is participating with the review being conducted by the AUS and that the school “considers the on and off ice behavior” of the incident to be “unacceptable on numerous levels.”
Dickie concludes by saying that the school will not be commenting further as they don’t wish to “prejudice the AUS investigation.”
Brad Peddle, the head coach of the X-Men, said in a statement that he felt the incident was avoidable.
“Supporting Sam has always been the top priority. In this specific instance, our team took a stand to protect him from repeated, unnecessary insults that have no place in sport or the greater society,” said Peddle.
A video of the fight was posted on YouTube. Warning: the video does contain strong language.
AUS executive director Phil Currie, who spoke to Global News before St. Francis Xavier University released its statement, said he was shocked by the brawl.
“When I first saw the video, it was pretty alarming to me that a university game, that we still have this kind of an incident, a brawl,” he said.
WATCH: Hockey brawl erupted after player shamed sex assault victim
Currie did say that AUS had heard that comments between players may have sparked the brawl.
“We need to determine who that was and what was said and try to get the bottom of it,” he said, adding that one-on-one interviews with the players in question will be conducted.
He says the league is determined to address the incident “appropriately.”
“If you look at the hockey world, and the culture in hockey, ‘chirping,’ as they call it, is commonplace and often players will chirp at each other,” said Currie.
“Based on what I understand, if this is the case, this is well over the line of what one would call chirping.”
—Ross Lord and Sarah Ritchie contributed to this report